Burn experts offer tips on fire safety, smoke inhalation prevention

Smoke escaping under door

The tear-inducing hit television show This is Us has been making headlines this week after finally revealing how the family patriarch Jack Pearson died. (Spoiler alert: He died of the widowmaker heart attack due to smoke inhalation from a house fire.)

HCA Healthcare Today already has covered the widowmaker and also want to educate our readers on fire safety and smoke inhalation prevention. There’s no better time than the present – it’s National Burn Awareness Week.

HCA Healthcare is connected to nationally renowned burn centers: The Grossman Burn Center at affiliate West Hills Hospital in California and affiliate Research Medical Center in Missouri, and the Joseph M. Still Burn Center, the largest in the U.S., at affiliate Doctors Hospital in Georgia. Each centers’ caregivers have joined the campaign to raise awareness.

Peter H. Grossman, MD, medical director at The Grossman Burn Center, agrees that people should be concerned about smoke, as well.

“The inhalation from the smoke can cause damage to the brain, damage to the lungs and to internal organs,” he said. “That’s the most dangerous aspect of a house or structure fire.”

“That’s why it’s so important, when you’re in a house or structure fire, even though there may be something you might want to get out of the house, you need to stay away because the dangers are so extensive and so quick that one can find themselves in a very precarious situation even if the actual flames from the fire are not there,” Dr. Grossman said.

Smoke inhalation is one of the largest causes of death in structure fires. According to information from the Joseph M. Still Burn Center, there were 3,390 recorded deaths from fire and smoke inhalation injuries in 2016.

You can help protect yourself and your loved ones with smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, with working batteries.

Burns, on the other hand, is the leading cause of unintentional injury in the United States. Each year, more than 486,000 individuals are seen in emergency departments, minor emergency clinics or physician’s offices for the treatment of burn injuries in the United States and Canada.

Most burn injuries occur in the person’s own home.  Although anyone can sustain a scald burn, certain people are more likely to be at risk infants, young children, older adults and people with disabilities.

“It’s best to make the kitchen a no-child zone if you can,” said Fred Mullins, MD, president of Burn & Reconstructive Centers of America and burn specialist at the Joseph M. Still Burn Center at Doctors Hospital. “We know that is not always possible or practical, so consider a three-foot safety zone around all cooking areas, and make sure that when children are in the kitchen, someone is keeping an eye on them at all times.”

Dr. Mullins also provided the following ways to stay safe in the kitchen:

  • Turn off all appliances if you leave the kitchen, even if you are leaving for just a few minutes.
  • Make sure all appliances are being used appropriately.
  • Use timers to track cooking times.
  • Keep items like potholders and food containers away from stove eyes and other hot surfaces.
  • If you have a grease fire, smother or cover it. DO NOT use water to try to put it out!
  • Never try to carry or walk with a burning pot or pan!
  • Cook on back burners and make sure all pot handles are turned toward the inside of the stove.

“When you are dealing with fire or any other mechanism that can cause a burn, you cannot be too careful,” added Dr. Mullins.

West Hills Hospital in West Hills, California and Doctors Hospital in Augusta, Georgia are affiliates of HCA Healthcare.  Both hospitals are home to specialized burn care centers. 

About HCA Healthcare

HCA Healthcare, one of the nation's leading providers of healthcare services, is comprised of 182 hospitals and more than 2,300 sites of care, in 20 states and the United Kingdom. Our more than 283,000 colleagues are connected by a single purpose — to give patients healthier tomorrows.

As an enterprise, we recognize the significant responsibility we have as a leading healthcare provider within each of the communities we serve, as well as the opportunity we have to improve the lives of the patients for whom we are entrusted to care. Through the compassion, knowledge and skill of our caregivers, and our ability to leverage our scale and innovative capabilities, HCA Healthcare is in a unique position to play a leading role in the transformation of care.

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